The Mystery of the missing White Label
A bourbon bottle’s journey across the Atlantic ocean–without its label
Evan Williams White Label, produced by Heaven Hill, was available for purchase in Sweden in 2016, but unfortunately no longer. When available, you couldn’t buy it off the shelf but instead by making an order through the monopoly supplier, who in turn puts in an order from the distributor, then contacts you when it is available. It is a whole thing, but although a bit bureaucratic–reliable. Very Swedish.
It would be my first bottled-in-bond bottle of bourbon. I studied up on the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 and double checked the requirements in the CFR. The Act is an important part of bourbon history and includes just about everything that fascinates me about bourbon as a part of American culture.
With White Label no longer available in Sweden shortly thereafter, I nursed my bottle after it arrived. I managed to stretch it to four-five months, and with my last couple of pours I wrote a review of it for The Son of Winston Churchill. While reviewing, I noticed that one of the requirements for a bottled-in-bond product, to disclose “the number of the plant in which produced and the number of the plant in which bottled”, was missing from my bottle. I also found it odd that no GTIN was to be found.
Confused, I asked my fellow SOWC-contributors about this and got pictures sent to me of their bottles and I immediately noticed: my Evan Williams White Label was missing the entire back label.
A missing back label would probably (at best) generate most people to shrug. To me, it was a case worthy of Mystery Incorporated!
We speculated back and forth but none of us had any previous experience of missing labels. As the remaining labels on my bottle still specified that it was bottled in Kentucky, I decided to go straight to the source and reach out to Heaven Hill Customer Service.
My experience with customer relations of different bourbon producers are… varied, to say the least. I often email and ask about things that I am curious about, questions both big and small. Some brands are very helpful, and others just reply with a cryptic standardized answer, often not even pertaining to the original query at all–If they reply at all that is.
So I was half-expecting not to hear back at all after curiously asking what the meaning of a missing back label could be. Although I didn’t really mind–the whiskey in the bottle tasted just as good without it!
Not more than two days later though, a very kind customer service employee returned my email. Apparently something was overlooked in the bottling process, and as a result, my bottle went through without a back label, that when correct, all White Label bottles should have. They offered to send me the missing back label, but why would I need that?
Then I had an idea: why don’t I ask if Denny Potter, the Co-Master Distiller and person in charge of the daily distilling operations at Heaven Hill, would sign the missing label and I could keep it as the final piece in what would hopefully become a great story?
How did they respond? “YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT”
Would you look at that?! Ain’t she a beaut’?! That’s the back label of an Evan Williams White Label bottle, signed by Denny Potter. This is absolutely the crown jewel of my collection–now accompanied by a great little story of a bourbon nerd and his quest for the missing White Label.
One last thing! I’d really appreciate it if you show support for this post (by clapping) so other people can find it, and feel free to comment by adding a response! Follow the Northern Bourbon publication to get notified when new bourbon-related articles are published. If you enjoyed this article, please consider following me on Instagram and liking the Northern Bourbon facebook page. Thanks!